I've just finished watching the 1996 film When Saturday Comes, and I can't decide if…
Michael’s Boca Juniors Dream Comes True
Recently our Director of Business Development, Michael, became “Groundhopper Michael” on a trip to Buenos Aires, when his longtime dream of seeing a game at Boca Juniors finally came true.
Most football junkies accumulate a list of their top 5 stadiums in which they would love visit during a live match. More times than not, you will find Estadio Alberto J. Armando, aka “La Bombonera,” on that list.
La Bombonera is the home stadium for the storied Argentine club, Boca Juniors. A few things make this stadium iconic, first its unique, steep stands that seem to engulf the pitch. Then there are the blue and yellow banners and streamers that paint the stands, with flags being waved from every side of the field. Ultimately, though, it’s the Boca fans that seem to scream a passion and rhythm not seen anywhere else.
Countless time I have watched Boca games with awe on tv, and I always dreamed to one day attend a live match. Well, a trip to Buenos Aires was already on the itinerary for me, so it dawned on me that It was finally time to be a fan inside the stadium.
On game day, I grabbed my four tickets thanks to a connection I found at the club, and then I did what any football fan would do first, especially in Argentina: EAT! And boy, what a city to eat in. We ended up going to an amazing pizza place in the center of the city called “El Cuartito”. As soon as you walk in you feel you are transported to the 80’s and what you would picture any great pizza joint from back in the day would look like. It was that and more: football shirts, banners, and posters of players and teams covered the walls. The small tv on the top corner of the room already welcomed us with an Argentine League game as we placed our order. We of course went with Pizza, but had to add the empanadas to the list as it was very well recommended to us. Minutes later, our meal was served on the table and what seemed like seconds later, it was gone. It was delicious – not just the taste, but the passionate broadcasters on TV that provided us with our white noise, and the view of people lining up to place their own order, all decked out in football jerseys, that made this all feel like the perfect pregame.
Enough with food, let’s make our way to Boca. The commute to La Bombonera, which sits in the vibrant neighborhood “LA Boca,” was about 40 minutes in a taxi. La Boca, which translates to “the mouth”, is a reference to the mouth of the river which the neighborhood sits by. It was the City’s main port for a long time and boasts a rich history, including the very place where the Tango began. As we approached the neighborhood, in the distance the towering Bombonera loomed with its iconic blue and yellow colors. Soon after, the goosebumps came. We were dropped off about 5 minutes from the stadium, and made our last walk towards our destination.
On our walk, every single store and restaurant had the pregame on TV. People were grilling in the middle of the street. Vendors were out selling merchandise (we bought some shirts and hats ourselves). Fans were singing, all perfectly in sync. Game time was nearing, and the fans were already in full swing.
When we found our first entrance to the stadium, one thing that was immediately noticed was that the women and men were separated for security. All female security staff were in charge of the women in their line, and all the men went with the male security guards. Once we went through security, we had a 2nd “entrance” where we showed our tickets and passports. Once we cleared that, we went to yet another “entrance,” and this time they asked us to scan our tickets for the reader. Yes! We made it in.
Here is an important thing to note: No alcohol is sold at the stadium. Another note is that no away fans are allowed at all to the stadium, so you better be a neutral or Boca fan, or else… Well, let’s just skip that part!
We found our seats, just 3 rows up from the pitch. The four of us practically broke our necks from so many times looking up, looking left, looking right, and turning around. Everywhere we looked it was a party: adults, kids, men, women, and seniors all dancing and singing for their Boca Juniors. And this was just warm ups.
The stadium’s most passionate fans are known as la 12, which essentially is a way of describing them as the 12th man on the field. They are located behind the goal, where they stand the whole time (there are no seats in that section). Minutes before the game starts, the Boca song comes on, and the deafening sound of the fans singing rang all throughout the stadium. Luckily we could follow along, as on the screen of the stadium they had the lyrics displayed…
Boca, mi buen amigo
Esta campaña volveremo’ a estar contigo
Te alentaremo’ de corazón
Esta es tu hinchada que te quiere ver campeón
No me importa lo que digan
Lo que digan lo’ demá’
Yo te sigo a todas parte’
Cada vez te quiero más
In a short translation, it can be summarized as
Boca, my good friend,
this season we will again be with you
We will cheer for you from our hearts
These are your fans, that want to see you be champions
I don’t care what they say
what they all say
I follow you everywhere
Each day I love you more
It is poetically beautiful. The whole game, the fans never stopped singing.
There was one moment that I will remember for the rest of my life. Boca was up 1-0, and Union scored to level the score at 1-1. But when they scored there were no ahh, or oohs, no moaning or groaning from the Boca fans. Instead the songs continued, without even a second of silence. The fans continued as if nothing had happened. They kept cheering and kept supporting their team. I have been to dozens of stadiums, and not once in my life did I ever witness anything quite like that.
Boca would end up winning 2-1. Immediately after leaving the stadium, my girlfriend looked at me, also quite speechless until then, and asked, Was this all that it was hyped up to be?
I responded, catching my breath, no, it was even more than I could have ever imagined.